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Italy History and Culture

Introduction

Italy is a treasure trove of Mediterranean history and culture; a country of crumbling ruins and gilded palazzos; of revered artworks and religious seats. It's almost impossible to ignore the richness of it all when you travel here, though the food is a worthy distraction. Gaze up at the leaning tower of Pisa, explore the floating walkways of Venice or wander among the columns of the ancient Colosseum. Even in the tiniest towns, a sense of history is evident simply in the families that pass down recipes and trades from generation to generation.

Historic Cities

Roman Forum at sunset in Rome
Roman Forum

Italy's many famous cities are home to some of the world's greatest architecture and most-visited attractions. In Rome, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Vatican City – home to the spectacular St. Peter’s Basilica – are undeniable highlights. In Venice, the very streets are a historic sight themselves, winding between networks of narrow canals that lead to the Grand Canal – the centre of trade to the Republic since the Middle Ages. In Florence, home of the Renaissance, the iconic Duomo cathedral dominates the city's skyline, and Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture draws the crowds. And, in the Emilia-Romagna region, Piacenza, Palma, Modena and Bologna showcase everything from Byzantine churches and UNESCO World Heritage sites to grand opera houses and the birthplace of balsamic vinegar.

Iconic Landmarks

Preserved city streets in Pompeii, Italy
Pompeii

All across Italy, iconic landmarks bring to life historic events, many outside of the main cities. In southern Italy’s Campania region, not far from the picturesque Amalfi Coast and the Bay of Naples, lies Pompeii. Once a vibrant Roman city, Pompeii was buried under meters of volcanic ash after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. Today, it is a perfectly preserved window into the past, and the most-visited archaeological site in the world. Then, in the country's northwest, along the Italian Riviera coastline, lies historic Cinque Terre, comprising five villages – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The area was long considered a strategic point of defence in times of conflict, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The list is endless; from that oh-so-famous tower in Pisa to the vast Arena di Verona, Italy is full of icons.

Hidden History

Templet at Agrigento, Sicily
Agrigento, Sicily

Away from Italy's busiest cities, a little off the beaten track, there are plenty of historical gems to be uncovered. In Puglia, right at the heel of the Italian boot, Trani's highlights include a hilltop cathedral and a church built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century, and in the nearby UNESCO-listed town of Matera, thousand-year-old dwellings cling to the cliffs. The strange conical-roofed houses known as trulli, unique to Puglia, remain a mystery to this day. And, away from the mainland, Sicily is dotted with stunning Arab-Norman architecture, ancient villas, and the millennia-old temple wonders of Agrigento.

 

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Our top itineraries for Italy History and Culture

Venice, Italy

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Venice to London

4-day tailor-made holiday from £4,425 pp incl. flights

Exclusive
offer

Exclusive savings – Save up to £835pp
Book by: 30 June 2024

After a stay in a canal-side palace, reached by private water taxi, indulge with bar-car drinks and fine dining as you sweep across the snow-dusted Alps and through the heart of western Europe.

Ragusa, Sicily

Best of Sicily self-drive

8-day tailor-made self-drive from £1,460 pp incl. flights

With the flexibility to explore at your own pace, link Sicily’s highlights with spectacularly rural drives and stays in some of the island’s premier hotels. You’ll take in everything from Cefalù’s sandy beaches to Agrigento’s temple wonders and Taormina's ancient grandeur.

Backstreet restaurant, Taormina

Gastronomy of Sicily

10-day tailor-made self-drive from £1,970 pp incl. flights

Sicily's rich past has given rise to a uniquely contrasting history and it's a similar story when it comes to its food and wine. You’ll take it all in with stays in boutique properties and pretty country drives, with the island’s famous gastronomy showcased in wine tastings and open-kitchen dining.

Capri, Italy

Capri & the Amalfi Coast

10-day tailor-made holiday from £2,985 pp incl. flights

Let stays in world-class hotels and the services of private drivers showcase the best of Capri’s island paradise, the Amalfi Coast’s dramatic beauty and Sorrento’s clifftop views. In between, there's plenty of time for some beach-side relaxation and independent exploration.

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Top offers for Italy History and Culture

Venice, Italy

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Venice to London

4-day tailor-made holiday from £4,425 pp incl. flights

Exclusive
offer

Exclusive savings – Save up to £835pp
Book by: 30 June 2024

After a stay in a canal-side palace, reached by private water taxi, indulge with bar-car drinks and fine dining as you sweep across the snow-dusted Alps and through the heart of western Europe.

Verona Arena, Verona, Italy

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Verona to London

4-day luxury rail journey from £4,215 pp incl. flights

Special
offer

2024 Northbound departures Exclusive savings – Save up to £755pp
Book by: 30 June 2024

Explore Verona’s medieval delights with a luxury stay and pair of tasting tours before the afternoon teas and white-gloved service of the most iconic train sees you home.

Dolomites Mountains, South Tyrol, Italy

South Tyrol & Dolomites Self-Drive

9-day tailor-made self-drive from £1,860 pp incl. flights

Between winding mountain roads and chocolate-box villages, this spectacular self-drive will see you discover some of Italy's most stunning landscapes, from vast green meadows to imposing mountain peaks.

Monemvasia, Greece

Greece, Croatia & Italy on Seabourn Encore

8-day luxury ocean cruise from £4,095 pp incl. flights

Special
cruise offer

Enjoy up to US$2,200 shipboard credit per suite
Book by: 31 May 2024

Join Seabourn to sail a curated collection of ports that combine such headline-grabbing wonders as Venice, Athens and Dubrovnik with a selection of off-the-beaten-track gems.

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